Rating: 3 stars
Michael Cera, the wonderfully strange and droll teen star from Arrested Development, Superbad, and Juno, always plays the same character. This, I suppose, would be a problem if the character weren’t so hilarious and loveable—a wry (and invariably love sick) middle aged man trapped in the body of a gangly teenage boy. Cera’s charaters are often would-be hipsters, but his use of teen vernacular always sounds stiff and studied. He’s a bit of a doormat, too, which angers him, but his decency is so self-evident, it’s hard to take his anger seriously—you just want to pinch his cheeks. Indeed, Cera is such a sensitive guy, he’s exactly the type to make painstakingly-decorated, shmoopy mixed CDs for his lady love.
That last bit describes Nick, the character that Cera is playing in Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist. He is in love with the coquettish Tris (Alexis Dziena), but she has just dumped him— “on my b-day,” he sighs sadly. Unbenownst to Nick, Tris doesn’t even listen to his sonic creations, but tosses them in the high school trash where they are picked up and appropriately worshipped by Nora (Kat Dennings).
Nora is a bit of a misfit, too. Her father is a huge record executive which makes her popular by proxy and she’s self-conscious about it. Kat Dennings is the perfect foil for Cera, because while she is beautiful, her beauty is just odd enough—too pale skin, too big eyes, perhaps (to a teenage aesthetic) a forehead too broad and sloping—that you believe she might not yet know it.
She and Nick meet at a Soho club where his “queer core” punk band has just played a set (yes, Nick is sensitive enough to play in a band with two gay friends). In order to look less like a loser, she asks him to pretend to be her boyfriend for the night, and so it begins.
Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist is an ode to New York nightlife, specifically that kind of endless-possibility night where you’re following the trail of your favorite band (in this case, called Where’s Fluffy) that is rumored to be playing a free show at an undisclosed location. It’s also about two people connecting over musical taste and the giddy kick of young love.
No discussion of this film would be complete without mentioning a hilarious turn by Ari Graynor as Nora’s drunk friend who gets separated from the gang and goes on a hilarious odyssey of her own. It’s a wickedly funny and original turn, although even I could have done without the scene where she drops her gum in the Port Authority toilet. (No, you don’t want to know.)
All that being said, it’s not really a great movie. It’s somewhat desultory and insiderish. You have to really love New York city, Michael Cera, indie music, and a certain kind of low-fi film aesthetic to enjoy it. Luckily, I do.